Bill Promoting NJ Hemp Industry Gains Senate Approval

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Jim Beach and Senator Bob Andrzejczak that would create a statewide program for the cultivation, handling, processing, transport, and sale of hemp and hemp products in New Jersey was approved by the Senate yesterday.

“The hemp industry offers an expanding market for farmers to grow their crops and for processors to produce new hemp products,” said Senator Sweeney (D- Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “New Jersey’s agriculture industry has the capacity and ability to capitalize on new opportunities for hemp products that will create jobs and expand economic opportunities. We can expand our current hemp program and seek ways to enter into a profitable industry in a more permanent way.”

The bill, S-3686, would replace the state’s pilot hemp program with a permanent one run by the Department of Agriculture.

“The pilot program led to the cultivation of just under 10,000 acres of hemp. Now, there are estimates that over 1,200 hemp farmers are operating on over 40,000 acres,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “With all the new processors now operating, we have the opportunity for dramatic growth in New Jersey. We need to implement the regulations to get this done.”

Industrial hemp is used in a wide variety of products including textiles, construction materials, and foodstuffs.  A wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, animal feed, food, and beverages all may use hemp. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning nine markets: agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food/nutrition/beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care.

“The demand for hemp goods is growing and hemp can be a viable crop in New Jersey,” said Senator Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “The ability to grow this product on an industrial scale would allow farmers to expand their harvests by adding a lucrative cash crop and researching cultivation methods of industrial hemp would greatly aid farmers.”

The legislation would make it lawful for a hemp producer to cultivate, handle, or process hemp or hemp products in the State, and for any person to possess, transport, sell, and purchase legally-produced hemp products in the State.  Any unauthorized person who cultivates, handles, or processes living hemp would be subject to the same penalties as those related to marijuana.

The Senate vote was 36-0.